Did the Sikhs Have a ‘Plan’?
‘An Over-Blamed People’ - I. Stephens
Pakistan propaganda has sought to make the world believe that the happenings of 1947 in the Punjab were the result of what it calls ‘Some specific Plan’ on the part of Sikhs. -What this ‘Plan’ exactly was, what were the specific objectives which it set out to achieve is not made exactly clear, but nevertheless it is asserted that a Sikh ‘Plan’ existed to destroy Muslim life. Barefaced lying has been known to go quite far in the affairs of the world but such a high degree of it as has manifested itself in Pakistan propaganda against Sikhs in particular and against India in general, is a rare treat and is hard to beat. It must be a very stupid world which Pakistan expected would swallow the stuff put forth by its propagandists.
The foregoing chapters have revealed the Muslim political objective of the last decade and a half-Pakistan, and the methods suggested and adopted for its achievement, with their final culmination in the Direct Action Programme of the Muslim League, and the mass-murders of Hindus (and Sikhs) witnessed in Noakhali, the North-Western Frontier Province, the Punjab and Kashmir in pursuance of this programme.
Political activity in India since the time that, Mahatma Gandhi gave the lead to the country, has followed ‘legitimate and non-violent methods’. At times these methods involved lawbreaking, but never physical injury. The country from 1921 onward had grown used to the method of Satyagraha in its various forms-Non-co-operation, Civil disobedience and Mass Action such as was contemplated for the 1942 movement, which never really could be put into effect. But action of this kind was not the Muslim League way. The Muslim League depended for its political success on the assassin’s knife, the murderer’s bullet and the drafting into the field of thousands of fire-raisers, murderers of helpless women and children, brigands and desperadoes of all kinds. This ‘army’ was led by a group of intelligent and coolly planning leaders on top, who deliberately instilled religious hate for others into the minds of their co-religionists, whipped up such hate into a violent frenzy, and then let loose these hate-inspired mobs on such helpless Hindus and Sikhs, as were in a small minority in particular areas, and so went under easily. This way the Muslim League wanted to render it impossible for one unified Government to be established in India, and to create a situation in which the political division of the country became inevitable.
Let us here refresh the memory of the reader, sum up such evidence of a well prepared and slowly matured plan of religious war against Hindus and Sikhs as has been recorded in the foregoing sections of this book in-more or less detail. This evidence is summed up as under: -
(a) The Muslim League rejected the Cabinet Mission Scheme, which offered to the Muslims a wide measure of autonomy in such areas in which they were in a majority. As a matter of fact, according to this Scheme, Hindu-Sikh Punjab, Hindu Bengal, and all Assam would form part of the Muslim Zones. The Muslim League however, would be appeased with nothing short of a totally separate State.
(b) To achieve this separate State, the League formulated its Direct Action Programme; in support of which programme wild, threatening and violent speeches were made clearly suggesting violence and destructiveness. Murder hysteria was created in the Muslim mind. As a result of this attitude attacks on Sikhs occurred at Abbottabad in July, 1946 and on Hindus at Calcutta on and after August 16, 1946.
(c) Then followed Noakhali and the rest. All such mass slaughter and destruction occurred in areas in which Muslims were in an overwhelming majority, with police and official aid.
In destruction, arson and forcible conversions etc. right from 1946 up till 1948 the same pattern was followed everywhere.
(d) Muslim League leaders expressed no feeling of horror or even regreat at what was being done to non-Muslims by their political adherents.
(e) Accumulation of arms, dumps of petrol, skilled methods of arson, perfect integration between mobs, police and officials, train hold-ups, accumulation of brickbats in towns, marking of Muslim shops and houses before arson etc. everywhere suggest plan and preparation.
(f) The recruitment, training equipment and organisation on a military pattern of Muslim League National Guards points again to the existence of a Plan in the hands of the Muslim League which was to be implemented through the agency of the Goondas.
(g) Last but not least is the fact that the Muslims in Bengal, North-Western Frontier Province and the Punjab committed aggression which went unpunished by non-Muslims for long. As a matter of fact, it was only in the Punjab and that too, after August 15, 1947 that Sikhs and Hindus did anything to avenge the murder of hundreds of thousands of their co-religionists, the burning of thousands of houses and the abduction of women and children. Up till August 15, Muslim aggression went unchecked, not because Hindus and Sikhs did not smart under the blows of the Muslims but because in the face of the Muslim organisation and police power they were helpless. All along Muslims thought they could go on being aggressive forever, and that there would be no reprisals. The Sikh reaction of the post-August 15 period really disillusioned and surprised the Muslims, who had never carefully studied the Sikh character nor pondered the potentialities of this people. The Sikh (and Hindu) revenge was violent, swift and terribly destructive. Muslims of East Punjab had to pay for the misdeeds of their co-religionists in West Punjab and other parts of India. This was unfortunate and not very logical either, but in human affairs it is not always logic which governs conduct, and the mass mind, once it is roused to the pitch of fury, will grow terribly revengeful, unreasoning and hysterical. That is what happened to Sikhs and Hindus in East Punjab after the terrible sufferings undergone by Sikhs and Hindus at the hands of Muslims in West Punjab and in the North-Western Frontier Province. As lakhs of Sikhs moved east from Rawalpindi Division and the Frontier Province, and uprooted men and women with ghastly stories to tell came to seek shelter from the terror of Lahore and Amritsar which were burning, the Sikh mind was deeply exercised over these happenings. Men, women and children would be seen going into towns and villages, huddled fifty in a room for shelter in Gurdwaras, Sarais, Dharamsalas-seeking lodgings in places not fit to be treated as pigsties, setting up stalls and booths on the roadside for a living-this sight was bound to make the Sikhs extremely angry. Sikhs would be less than human, they would be a nation of cowards and chicken-hearted manikins if they had not taken the sufferings of Sikhs in other parts of India and of the Punjab much to heart.
It must be reiterated as an important fact that while by April, 1947 there were about a million Sikh and Hindu refugees from Muslim terror, who took Shelter in Wah, Kala and other refugee camps, in Amritsar, in the Sikh States, in Ludhiana, Jullundur and Ferozepore Districts, in Hardwar, Delhi, Ambala, Karnal and even as far south as Gurgaon and the States of Alwar, Bharatpur, Dholpur and Bikaner-there were very few Muslims till then and months later who could be described as refugees. The reason was that Sikhs and Hindus had been till then the only sufferers. They were nowhere in a position to put up a fight against Muslim aggression. In Amritsar alone some Muslims were rendered homeless in certain areas of the town, where Sikhs and Hindus had been able to burn Muslim quarters after having had their own burnt. Some Muslim workers were thrown out of work because non-Muslim factory owners in these times could not trust their life and property to Muslims, any one or any group of whom would most likely turn an assassin and fire-raiser against Hindus and Sikhs. These Muslims of Amritsar, a few thousands in number, were the only members of their community in the Punjab who at this time could be described as being riot sufferers as against a million Hindus and Sikhs. This situation continued up till August 15, and several days later. Let the entire Sikh-Muslim problem be pondered with this important factor in the situation kept very carefully in mind.
But all through the months up till August, 1947 Sikhs in every part of the present East Punjab and in the Sikh States kept peaceful. The Government communiques on the riot situation of the Punjab while reporting as many as 69 fires daily in Lahore, the burning of whole localities with many thousands rendered homeless, the brutalities committed by Muslim Goondas and Assassins, have but one report to make about East Punjab: ‘East Punjab is reported quiet.’ Here and there minor disturbances occurred, but they were quite often of the seeking of Muslims. In Ludhiana, Jullundur and Hoshiarpur Muslims stabbed Sikhs and Hindus and there was some counter-stabbing. But on the whole there was no retaliation in East Punjab. Muslims in Patiala, Jind, Nabha and Faridkot States, all of which with the exception of Jind are Sikh majority areas, (Jind being Hindu. Sikh majority) there was not a single incident of attack on any Muslim. Muslims felt in these States perfectly secure, though in parts of Patiala Muslims did try to make mischief against the Sikh refugees from Rawalpindi and the Frontier. But even at this there was no attack on Muslims anywhere.
In Ferozepur, Ludhiana and Jullundur districts in which Sikhs were the most powerful factor in the rural population-there was no incident of attack on any Muslim anywhere. Nor in rural Lahore, where the Sikhs were better organised and more powerful than Muslims. The only District in the rural areas of which (and that after the middle of July) some fighting did occur was Amritsar. This was the direct and inevitable consequence of the daily burning and stabbing of Hindus and Sikhs in Amritsar town, and in Lahore. Sikh villagers coming to Amritsar were quite often waylaid by Muslims outside the town and murdered. Sikh murders ran into hundreds. These murders inflamed the Sikh countryside, and attacks on Muslims began to occur-in July. In Amritsar, Muslims quite often attacked Sikhs in rural areas also first. Dhapai, Mula Chak, Bhagtanwala, Jhabal, Verka, Sultanwind, Khasa, etc. were some of the places in which attacks on Sikhs occurred, That Sikhs should have retaliated by attacking Muslims, who were in the rural areas not so strongly situated as Sikhs, was only natural. When the month of August began, Amritsar was the only district in the Punjab where fighting was going on. Not that Muslims were peaceful. Only for some strategic reason, as August approached, they appeared to have decided upon a kind of lull-as if in preparation of some very big offensive. And that big offensive came everywhere after August 10. It began in Lahore, and by the 12th and 13th was in operation in Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gujrat, Montgomery and other near districts. Mianwali, Sheikhupura, Lyallpur, Muzaffargarh etc. caught up a little later.
In Amritsar attacks on Muslims began after the 11th August, a day after the terrible massacre of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs occurred in Lahore. Refugees came from Lahore-the new wave had already reached East Punjab via Ferozepur by the 13th August. But their coming did not cause Sikhs anywhere to flare-up and to attack Muslims. Everyone somehow expected that Pakistan would have a good responsible Government, and that as soon as it was established some sort of order would be restored, more successfully than the British Government had been able to do. This hope, unfortunately, was soon belied.
The situation on the 15th August was that all East Punjab was quiet, the only part of East Punjab where attacks on Muslims had occurred was Amritsar, but Amritsar was a case apart. This was a city which had spent five and a half months in a state of siege and here Hindus and Sikhs had suffered terribly from Muslim aggression. So, punishment of Amritsar Muslims as soon as the stranglehold of the Muslim Police and officialdom was removed was only natural. A cornered, persecuted non-Muslim population fell upon their persecutors and made them flee from Amritsar in the brief space of a day and a half. But there were absolutely no repercussions of Amritsar in any part of East Punjab at this time.
Terrible news continued to pour in from Lahore after the 11th August. It was a not inaccurate picture of mass murder which flashed to the East Punjab, through the refugees and other means. East Punjab did not celebrate Independence Day on August 15 with anything like a heart. Muslim began, however, to make mischief in East Punjab too. There appears to have been some kind of a Muslim scheme to create trouble in the nascent State of India, especially on its Pakistan border. From Jullundur, Ludhiana, Patiala, Ambala, Delhi, Alwar and other places large Muslim dumps of arms were unearthed. Near Ludhiana, on the 17th August murders of Sikhs in trains occurred. That led to murders of Muslims. Came on this scene stories of fresh atrocities in Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala, etc. and attacks on Muslims by infuriated Sikhs and Hindus. Thus it was that suddenly on the 21st August train services stopped. With every report of massacre in West Punjab corresponding things occurred in East Punjab. It became a race for mass murder of the opposite community. Exactly the methods which the Muslims had perfected for the genocide of Hindus and Sikhs, were employed for the destruction of Muslims in East Punjab. It was arson for arson, murder for murder, abduction for abduction, forcible conversion for forcible conversion-ad nauseam.
All through the period since the terrible March riots of Rawalpindi, and the beating which the Sikhs were daily taking in Amritsar, they had been jeered at by Muslims and others as cowards. It got abroad that the Sikhs had lost their old sting; that they had lost the martial spirit which they had inherited from their fathers. This thesis was so unquestioningly accepted that certain philosophical people among Hindus and even among Sikhs began to find historical causes for this supposed deterioration of the Sikh militant character. Some attributed it to the growing urbanisation of the Sikhs, others to the decline in the standard of Sikh diet, others to the growth among them of indifference towards religion, and so on and so forth. This taunt rankled in the Sikh heart. Sikhs felt helpless everywhere. In Rawalpindi they were hopelessly out-numbered. They wanted to be qui& with Muslims in Amritsar. But the overwhelming Muslim majority in the police, the coordination between the Muslim League and the officialdom of the Punjab-and what is more-the stationing in East Punjab of the major portion of the Boundary Force-kept Sikhs totally helpless spectators of the ruin of Amritsar. Rawalpindi as the months passed, began to fade a little into history, to become more a problem for rehabilitation than for revenge. And, it was generally thought that as order would be established with the birth of Pakistan, the West Punjab evacuees would be able to return home. This hope somehow continued to grow. Amritsar remained the one active theatre of war. Lahore was similar.
In summing up the causes of the occurrence of post-August riots in East Punjab, The Hindustan Times in its editorial dated October 23, 1948 says:-
‘But the systematic manner in which Pakistan leaders are attempting to paint the people of this country as demons out to destroy innocent Muslims, while hiding, it not defending, the horrible outrages perpetrated by members of their own community from Calcutta to Sheikhupura is nothing but an attempt to defame this country and throw dust in the eyes of the outside world regarding the crimes committed by their co-religionists. They also know, as does everyone in this country, that the Punjab disaster was but the culminating act of the tragedy which began with the unprincipled campaign of communal hated and violence which they and their party leaders had been preaching for years as the only means of securing the ambition of their heart, namely, the separation of a part of this country where they could play the role of rulers, even though at the cost of unexampled suffering and misery to their own co-religionists both in Pakistan and India.’
In an earlier editorial entitled ‘Who Was Responsible?’ The Hindustan Times (July 7, 1948) has clearly been able to prove the Pakistan conspiracy and its aggression which brought on the Punjab Tragedy. Says The Hindustan Times: Wednesday, July 7, 1948.
‘Who was Responsible?’
‘We do not know why Mr. Ghulam Mohammad1 thought it his duty to anticipate the verdict of history regarding the responsibility of Lord Mountbatten for the tragedy of the Punjab. He is reported to have stated at a Press Conference in London that when the history of the events of this dark chapter comes to be written ‘a part of the blame-would rest on Lord Mountbatten.’ He has made two specific charges. The last British Viceroy was aware of a deep laid conspiracy by the Sikhs and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh ‘to throttle Pakistan by eliminating Muslim’ and refused to take action. The other charge is that Lord Mountbatten forced partition too quickly. The British Commonwealth Relations Office has repudiated both charges. It has pointed out that it was the then Governor of Punjab who had proved himself to be an avowed partisan of Muslim League, and had looked on impotently while sanguinary riots organized by the Muslim League and the Muslim National Guards took place in North Punjab in March and April 1947. It may be convenient for Mr. Ghulam Mohammed to forget that what happened in August 1947, was a mere continuation of the bloody chain of reaction which was set in motion by the Muslim League at Calcutta in August 1946. In March and April 1947, Sikhs had been brutally massacred and looted and they were abused as cowards because they had not reacted at once with violence. As a matter of fact Lord Mountbatten yielded to his pro-Muslim advisers and stationed the major portion of the Punjab Boundary Force in East Punjab with the result that there was no force to check or control the terrible massacres of Hindus and Sikhs that occurred in Sheikhupura and other places. We should certainly like an impartial investigation into the events of those days and we have no doubt it will be found that while, on the Indian side, it was the spontaneous outburst of a people indignant at what they considered the weakness and the appeasement policy of their leadership, on the Muslim side, the League, the bureaucracy, the police and the army worked like Hitler’s team with the tacit if not open approval of those in charge of the Pakistan Government.’
By the time the Sikh (and Hindu) attack on the Muslims came-the rankling shame in the Sikh mind at their own helplessness, the pouring into the East Punjab of train loads of corpses from West Punjab, of daily stories of massacres and of millions of helpless men, women and children created a revenge-hysteria among Sikhs and Hindus. That led to these riots in town after town, village after village and the murders of Muslims on the lines adopted by the West Punjab planners of Hindu and Sikh genocide.
That Sikh retaliation would come some day-was apparent to everyone except only to purblind Muslim Leaguers. Mr. Akhtar Hussain, Chief Secretary to the Punjab Government for some time before the partition, hinted at this possibility in his fortnightly review of the situation in the Province, already quoted. His words will bear a repeating here: (This report is for the first half of March, 1947) ‘The prospect is not improved by the brutality of some of the acts committed by the majority community (Muslims) in the areas most affected. When details of these facts become known, as inevitably they will, the danger of retaliation will arise in a degree fraught with much danger.’
This retaliation came in the shape of the driving out of Muslims from Amritsar, from August 11, onwards. Sikhs had everywhere else in the East Punjab accepted the political situation as it was to be on August 15. They were to strive for a special treatment as minority both in the East and West Punjab. In the East Punjab they were even speculating on the future political set up, with the Muslims as a factor in the East Punjab politics always present in their mind. So, no thought of driving out the Muslims could have crossed the Sikh mind.
But there came the Lahore, Gujranwala and Sialkot massacres and the swelling stream of refugees. This upset all calculations and political manoevouring. Only one thought became upermost in the Sikh, and also the Hindu mind-revenge against Muslims. Sikhs and Hindus of East Punjab- potential rivals in the political field-were in a day thrown into a situation wherein they became natural allies in the fight against the Muslims.
Let us examine the Muslim accusation that the Sikhs had a ‘Plan’. A Plan for what? Pakistan propaganda suggests that it was a plan for creating a Sikh State in the Punjab. Now, every student of recent Sikh history is aware that such an objective, if it was present in any clear shape had been abandoned by the Sikhs in 1945. When the Cabinet Mission came in 1946, Sikhs did not present a demand for a Sikh State before the Mission. The idea of the Sikh State had emerged only as a counter-blast to the Muslim demand of the independent State of Pakistan. The Cabinet Mission rejected Pakistan, Sikhs naturally did not in that case ask for a separate Sikh State. All they have been asking for is a re-adjustment of the Boundaries of the Punjab so as to make the majority domination of Muslims impossible. Sikhs vigorously protested against the Cabinet Mission proposals (dated 16th May, 1946), from May 18, 1946 onwards, because these proposals contemplated not only to retain the old Punjab intact, but even to tag on to it the still larger Muslim majorities of the North-Western Frontier Province, Sind, and Baluchistan, with Bhawalpur, Kalat and other States to be possibly thrown in.
The Cabinet Mission Scheme failed. Its failure was scaled when it was decided to create two Constituent Assemblies-one for India and the other for Pakistan. The British Government Statement of February 20 detailing the process of transfer of power in India to one Central Government or to several Governments, was the culmination of the rejection of the Cabinet Mission Scheme.
In all these developments the Sikhs were naturally hurt and angry. No one appeared to bother about their future. Then came the Punjab riots and the decision on June 3rd, 1941 to establish Pakistan. The Sikhs through S. Baldev Singh, Defence Minister of India, accepted the June 3 plan, which involved the creation of Pakistan. This was done not because Sikhs did not realize fully what a danger lay to their existence in being bifurcated between India and Pakistan, but because there was no other way except division, in the impasse between the Muslim League and the Congress and secondly because the Congress assured the Sikhs of full justice. So, Sikhs decided to make the maximum sacrifice which a people ever had made in the common interest. Sikhs had hoped that the ‘other factors’ clause of the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission would be used to operate in favour of bringing the maximum number of Sikhs into East Punjab as well as the sacred shrine of Nankana Sahib.
That the Sikhs were bitter and disillusioned at the award of the Boundary Commission is perfectly true. But the West Punjab Sikhs were willing to remain in Pakistan as its citizens on the only decent terms on which any people can brook to become the citizens of a State, namely (a) that all communities would be treated without any discrimination, and (b) that protection would be afforded to the Sikh Gurdwaras situated in Pakistan.
But it was evident that Pakistan was not going to be a Secular State like India. Leaders of Pakistan were profuse in promises of fair treatment for minorities, but no one very seriously believed such promises. One school of thought among Sikhs therefore, thought of the possibility and even necessity of the transfer into India of some part at least of the Sikh population of Pakistan. But such a transfer was thought of neither immediately, nor in any but a peaceful manner, by agreement and determination of compensation.
In all these political developments there is not an iota of the existence of any ‘plan’ on the part of Sikhs to attack Muslims. As said above, Sikhs made all their calculations about the East Punjab with the Muslims therein as an existent. factor. The events which followed August 15 and which made inevitable total transfer of the non-Muslim and Muslim populations between West Punjab and East Punjab, were forced upon the Sikhs and the Hindus by Pakistan Muslims and were not of their own seeking.
The fact is that Muslims everywhere in Pakistan, had made the life of religious minorities miserable. How is it that as late as October 25, 1948 so responsible a person as Dr. B. C. Roy, Premier of West Bengal, felt constrained to say, ‘It is no use belittling the fact that people are coming from East Bengal to West Bengal because they find life in East Bengal intolerable.’
Giving instances of life being made intolerable for Hindus in East Bengal, Dr. Roy said: -
‘My friend (Finance Minister of Pakistan) states that there has been no case of persecution or oppression in East Bengal. Will he kindly tell us whether it is not a fact that house searches had been made in Jessore, Dinapur, Pabna, Meharpur, Barisal ’ (This is followed by a number of charges against the East Bengal Government).
Persecution and driving out of the minorities has been the way with the Muslim League. It began with Noakhali and continued for more than a year as the story narrated in this booklet has shown.
Pakistan has made much of several irrelevant or purely imaginary factors in order to impute a plan of attack on Muslims to the Sikhs. Let us look at the situation as it was with no fact omitted.
(a) It is clear that while there was a Muslim aggression, recognised to be such even by the British Government inasmuch as collective fines are imposed on Muslims in Rawalpindi, Multan, Lahore, Sargodha and other places prior to June 1947, no attack of any considerable nature on Muslims in East Punjab occurred before August 25-about two weeks after mass murder for the second time had begun in West Punjab. This itself will show what was the ‘plan’ which came first and which dragged the Sikhs into fight.
(b) The Punjab Chief Secretary’s report estimates (quoted earlier) the strength of the Muslim League National Guard, at 39,000 for the Punjab. There was no other such private army (not anyway of this formidable magnitude) in the Punjab. Leastways had the Sikhs any private army. There were the members and workers of the Shiromani Akali Dal, but they were political workers, not a private army. Pakistan has mentioned one ‘Akal Fauj’. No such body actually existed. It existed, if anywhere, only in the imagination of Pakistan propagandists. The origin of the concept is that as late as middle of February, 1947 when the well-known incident (mentioned earlier) of the blackening of the faces of the non-Muslim tonga drivers occurred in Amritsar, Master Tara Singh expressed the desire for a Sikh organisation of volunteers to fight against such aggression on the part of the Muslims. The idea of an Akal Fauj (Immortal Army) was then let adrift. In some places a few small cells were created, the total recruitment not coming to more than a few hundreds. But all along, the Muslim National Guards numbering 39,000 (according to the Government reports) existed armed and equipped, in liaison with the police, besides militant Muslim organisations like Khaksars, trained to attack and murder.
As for the Shahidi Jatha, a Sikh Volunteer organisation pledged to defend the panth, that came into existence still later on the 13th of April, 1947 (Baisakhi Day). This was an urgently needed body of volunteers to defend Sikhs from Muslim aggression everywhere, which was made worse by the open support given by the police to the Muslims. Sikhs did not want to commit harakiri, to go under to a total Muslim war upon them. The Shahidi Jathas put heart into the Sikhs, and did a deal to keep the East Punjab Muslims, especially of places like Ludhiana and Jullundur reasonable, in spite of the overwhelming Muslim majority of population in them.
That the Sikhs had no notion of an attack on the part of the Muslims and that they had still less any idea of attacking Muslims is evidenced by two events: (1) When attacks on Sikhs began on March 5, 1947 in Amritsar a large number of Sikhs were away to Anandpur to attend Hola Mohalla Fair there-leaving Amritsar practically defenceless. This they would not have done, had they expected a fight, must less they had any design to begin one.
(2) In the Sikh State of Jind right up till August 31, 1947, a Muslim was Prime Minister. This could not have happened in a Sikh State if Sikhs had any ‘plan’ to make their States or any part of their homelands a base for operations against Muslims.
Among those who have made an impartial study of the Punjab situation is Mr. Ian Stephens, Editor of the ‘Statesman’, one of the sanest and most responsible papers in India. Mr. Stephens brought out some months back a booklet on the Sikhs, entitled ‘Among the Sikhs-An Over-blamed people’. The second half of this title-line ‘An Over-blamed people’ is the true summing up of the situation of the Sikhs. Never was truer word said in the midst of so much malicious propaganda, so much maligning and mud-spattering. The Sikhs have been made the scapegoats for blame not only by Muslims, but also by ill-informed Hindus and other non-Muslims. The terrible sufferings of the Sikhs were totally lost sight of, as well as the constant provocation offered to them, the massacres, loot, arson, destruction of sacred places, and above all, dishonouring of their women. Only the excesses committed by Sikhs in retaliation were presented and magnified manyfold. And hence a totally false and distorted picture was presented in which the Sikh was presented as the villain of the piece. It even became fashionable in India to profess sympathy in and out of season for all kinds of Muslims, and to profess an equal abhorrence for Sikhs. To correct such a view, let us remember the wise words of Mr. Ian Stephens:-
‘Muslims also wrought frightful barbarities in many places as did Hindus. Members of all three communities sinned heavily during the unprecedented slaughterings and maimings and burnings all across upper India between August ‘46 and November, ‘47. To hold but one blameworthy is injustice.
‘Lopsided and Unchivlrous.
It seems particularly wrong, lopsided and unchivlrous when the community thus singled out is that whose personnel, if not renegades from their faith, are necessary the most noticeable. A true Sikh may atonce be identified from the Kakars made obligatory by his last Guru.
‘Until members of this numerically small but virile obstinate and deeply religious community, can (like British Catholics visiting Rome or Lourdes) buy a ticket for Nanakana Sahib or Panja Sahib confident of the ordinary decencies of international travel, there will be no stable peace in the two Punjabs, nor basis for Pakistan to rank herself as the full equal of other countries in standards of civilized modern tolerance
Perhaps however, queried the intellect, this indictment of a single community-the smallest of the three-was disproportionate, unfair? During the 14 months of unprecedented disorder from August, ‘46, across 1,500 miles of the Indo-Gangetic plain from Calcutta and Noakhali to Quetta and Kashmir, members of all three communities had done damnable things. Sikhs are comparatively few; could they rightly be blamed for so much?
‘Inquiry confirmed the doubt. It elicited, too, the appalling nature of the Sikhs’ own losses. About 40% of them had been made refugees. No such figure was approached by the other communities. They had no strong Press to put their case. The Editorial in The Statesman during January resulted.’
It is obvious from the foregoing that while the Muslim League had its ‘plan’ of elimination of minorities, the Sikhs and Hindus retaliated in the face of the inhuman attacks on their coreligionists. To talk of a ‘plan’ with regard either to the Sikhs or Hindus is fantastic; more probably deliberate falsehood.
Finance Minister of Pakistan. ↩